The Isle of Sark, a small island in the Channel Islands in southwestern English Channel, has just been declared the first “dark sky island” in the world.

No public lighting

The award was given by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), a US-based organization devoted to preserving the darkest and most beautiful night skies on Earth.

In the Isle of Sark, there are no public streetlights, cars are not allowed, and locals are only using head torches at night. Because of that, when the weather is nice, you can easily see the Milky Way stretching across the sky at night.

An involved community

“Here we have a living, thriving community that has made a conscious effort that they themselves will help to protect and help to restore the view of the night sky,” said Martin Morgan-Taylor, chairman of the IDA’s international committee. Local residents and businesses have made an effort to reduce the amount of light spilled upwards; later, officials on Sark measured night time illumination levels and submitted digital photographs that showed the clarity of constellations in the night sky.

© M. Morgan-Taylor

Four european sites already designated

The Isle of Sark was designated by the IDA with Hungary’s Hortobagy National Park. Both of them joined two other dark sky sites in Europe, the Galloway Forest in Scotland and Zselic Park in Hungary.

“People around the world are becoming increasingly fascinated by astronomy as we discover more about our universe, and the creation of the world’s first dark sky island in the British Isles can only help to increase that appetite,” said Professor Roger Davies, president of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The IDA receives four or five applications a year, from the entire world. Any area (island, city, park) can apply by contacting the association.